The Elements of Teaching
Peg Oliveira, PhD
The periodic table reveals an almost miraculous regularity. In it, the haphazard truths —observed piecemeal by so many individuals day-to-day, over centuries across the world— serendipitously fall in line. In its elemental predictability, a reassurance of order beneath the chaos.
As a psychologist, the periodic table has always inspired a bit of jealousy in me. I wanted that sense of underlying order that my biochemistry roommate in grad school enjoyed. But it appears my wish may be coming true: as many states, like my own of Connecticut, join in the laborious steps toward defining the core knowledge and competencies for early childhood educators. Education policy is ambitiously working to lay out its periodic table. We are combining our collective experience with an unprecedented surge in rigorous research to define core knowledge and competencies (CKC’s), the foundational elements of what teachers need to know and be able to do to predict student success.
While some may complain that the CKC’s are “nothing new,” that is precisely the point. This codification is necessary. Like the periodic table, to understand the elements is to understand the universe.
Over the past four years, I have been honored to lead hundreds of teachers, parents and advocates in Connecticut as they crafted this powerful roadmap for professional development and self assessment. In this process we scanned Federal guidelines, best practice and other states’ frameworks. In the end, we in Connecticut, much like our colleagues in Massachusetts, California, and New York, came to a comprehensive “periodic table” of dozens of skills and knowledge areas across seven domains.
In stepping back to focus on the forest rather than the trees, all those individual elements are recognized as three basic practices:
- Know Yourself
- Know Kids
- Know Your Kids